let’s define legal tiny houses

If you want to go small or tiny, then learning about house size, placement and restrictions will help keep your living plans legal.

Starting with the tiniest houses, Portland Alternative Dwelling (PAD) leader Dee Williams explains living constraints and freedoms in this video overview with KATU-TV2 news.

KATU TV Video - PADWhat’s legal, what’s not

Homes built as second structures:  Accessory dwelling unit (ADU) laws allow homeowners to build second structures with utilities, through they vary by neighborhood. Separately, building codes still reject homes under 200 sq. ft. homes as unsafe dwellings. Above that size, please check with your municipality for plan approvals or exemptions.

Houses on wheels:  For sub-200 sq. ft. houses with full kitchens and bathrooms, you should have far more luck living legally on a trailer foundation. The main drawback is that RV regulations stipulate part-time occupation or recreational uses wherever you park. Don’t give up yet.

Homes build as sole structures:  If you  want a “larger” house, then you should be able to build a single, sole structure on a property. Again local zoning and building codes apply, and we suggest checking out 400+ sq. ft. plans with your local City Hall staff. Get this figured out before any next step.

This tiny house on wheels is legally located in a backyard, with two larger foundation homes as neighbors. Tiny dwellers live there part-time, plus other countries. (PAD Tiny Houses)

This tiny house on wheels is legally located in a backyard, with two larger foundation homes as neighbors. Tiny dwellers live there part-time, plus other countries. (PAD Tiny Houses)

Today:  legal living in under 200 square feet

To live legally in a tiny house with all the creature comforts and utilities, today’s answer is a tiny house on wheels. Many people live temporarily in their houses due to seasonal or other part-time living needs. Others live permanently in an RV Park, full time.

Should you want to live more privately, it’s possible in a tiny house that meets RV standards. In ex-urban and rural areas, there are locations where people currently live legally in travel trailers with or without another home built on the property.

Back in cities and suburbs, tiny house dwellers have started receiving legal exemptions (licenses) to live permanently in a back yard when caring for a sick, disabled or elderly person in the main house. We hope to see these exemptions get adopted more widely.

There’s also a grey zone, where some tiny dwellers rely on the kindness of neighbors who love their homes too. They live full-time on properties with other homes and simply use their tiny houses.

Inside this back yard home, you have a comfortable sleeping loft, kitchen and storage shelves. There's also a nice great room and hang-out area, by the front door. (PAD Tiny Houses)

Inside this back yard home, you have a comfortable sleeping loft, kitchen and storage shelves. There’s also a nice great room and hang-out area, by the front door. (PAD Tiny Houses)

Tomorrow:  small and tiny house changes ahead

At Tiny House Joy, we expect to see changes based on the growing demand for tiny house living. Some progressive places like Portland, Oregon are leading the way, seeking flexibility for accessory dwelling units through the city.

Second, we hope that under 200 sq. ft. homes are accommodated nationally, whether on wheels or foundations.  It is a sea-change because the original building codes were installed to protect people from living in tiny sub-standard conditions.

Finally, seeing quicker municipal approvals for “larger” houses up to 800 sq. ft. would be an important step towards mainstreaming tiny and small structures. Years ago, this size home was considered normal and yet new homes can’t be built next to their historic smaller neighbors today.

Be patient! The laws will catch up and enable more flexible tiny house living arrangements.  By going tiny now or soon, you are effectively helping to pay it forward.

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